Vaaranam Aayiram

Gautham Vasudev Menon is back with a film straight from the heart. The director, who believes in meaningful cinema, is trying to push the cinematic envelope with Vaaranam Aayiram.

The film is clearly meant for niche audiences, and not for mass viewing. It is a tribute to the director’s dad, who passed away last year. The treatment and narration are purely autobiographical with most of it taken from real life incidents laced with cinematic liberties.

In a nutshell, the film is personal and deals with the deep bonding between a loving and devoted father and his son who is trying to discover himself. Menon’s life story may be woefully long and meandering ( 2 hours 55 minutes) with a great first half, but post Interval, it lags. Still it works and grabs us where it matters and leaves a lump in your throat.

The movie opens with an army officer Surya receiving the news of his dad’s death while on a mission. Flashback- Right from his birth, for Surya (Surya) his dad Krishnan (Surya), a middle-class central government employee is more of a friend and a role model than a disciplinarian father. He dotes on his dad more than his mom Malini (Simran) and sister Shriya, and they live a happy life. Surya is influenced by his dad’s stories of how he romanced his mother and won her. As Malini nostalgically tells him- “He just swept me off my feet”!

Surya goes to an Engineering college in Tiruchi, after his father borrows money to pay his capitation fees, but ends up watching movies than attending classes. After his last semester exams, on the way back to Chennai he meets the beautiful Meghana (Sameera Reddy) on train and it is love at first sight. Being a guy who has never looked at a girl, he pulls out his guitar and sings En iniyia pon nilaave!

Meghana and Surya are like chalk and cheese; she has graduated from the prestigious REC, Tiruchi a studious type and a topper who is going to do her MS at Berkley University in California! But somehow Surya who says he has been hit by a “thunderbolt” tells her-” I will come into your life and sweep you off your feet”. How his father sticks with him through thick and thin and helps him to attain his goal against all odds, forms rest of this bio pic.

Gautham simply wrings you dry with his overplay of emotions in the father-son bonding. The climax is heart wrenching and heartwarming as Surya’s breakdown and tears roll down his cheek which looks real. The best part of the film is the first half, especially the wispy romance between Surya and Sameera Reddy, with the scene where Surya falls for her in the train is hilarious and romantic. And when Sameera says finally – “I’m in love”, with Surya playing around with a toy helicopter at Fort Point, which offers the best view of the Golden Bridge in San Francisco, the romance tugs at your heart. Only Gautham, a romantic can make such scenes work.

Technically the film is state of art. Rajeevan’s art work captures the ethos and milieu of the 60’s feel in the beginning effectively. For a change Antony does not do any gimmicks, and you should understand that its not an easy job to edit an autobiographical.

Ratnavel’s camera is eye-catching as it pans California, Dehradun, Delhi, Rameswaram and other locations and gives the film richness. Surya’s make-up, his six pack look and old man get-up is very good.

The music of Harris Jayaraj is first rate and tangy, with meaningful lyrics of Thamarai. This is Harris- Gautham’s last film together and the combo is simply terrific. Four of the songs before interval are shot beautifully like a music video, with Adiye Kolluthe… and Nenjukkul Peidhidum.. being the pick of lot, while two songs post interval mars the tempo. However the music of the film and its picturisation will remain the USP of the film.

The power-packed performer award belongs to Surya, who is outstanding in a dual role as father and son. Shorn off any artifice, his anguish, pains and joy look real. The female star cast is simply too good, whether it is Simran playing Surya’s mother, Sameera Reddy pure eye candy and brings an uninhibited joie to her role as Meghana. Divya is outstanding, investing her character with sensitivity a far cry from her Kuthu days.

On the downside, the film is excruciatingly slow, and in the second half plods as the director has no story to say. All of a sudden why did he make his hero larger than life? The Delhi kidnapping and the hero solving it has been done to bring out his heroism, which sticks out like a sore thumb. Is there not a cut-off age to join the army? Surya’s character is far too simplistic. The thing about a father backing his son to go to America and win over his lady love just doesn’t wash. An ordinary middle class, Tamil family speaking so fluently in English does not gel with viewers.

The film demands great patience to sit through and is an overdose of emotions. If the film holds on, it is because of its music and superb performance of Surya. On the whole, the film is optimistic, fresh and emotionally honest. But how mature are our audiences, is the million dollar question?

Cast:    Suriya, Simran, Sameera Reddy, Divya
Direction:    Gautham Menon
Music:    Harris Jayaraj

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